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Brett Gardner's blast in ninth propels New York Yankees past Chicago Cubs

By Jack McCarthy, The Sports Xchange
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Brett Gardner's blast in ninth propels New York Yankees past Chicago Cubs
New York Yankees Brett Gardner hits three-run home run off Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Hector Rondon during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field on May 5, 2017 in Chicago. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo

CHICAGO -- The New York Yankees were one strike away from defeat on Friday when Brett Gardner found a pitch he liked.

The Yankees third baseman took a 2-2 offering from Chicago Cubs reliever Hector Rondon with two outs and drove it 400 feet through tricky crosswinds toward the right-field bleachers.

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A three-run home run made the difference in a 3-2 New York victory in the opener of a three-game interleague series at Wrigley Field.

"I was fired up," Gardner said. "I'm usually even-keeled, but I was excited. I feel like we were kind of slow all game and they were obviously winning 2-0 and it comes to the last strike in the ninth inning.

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"It feels good to come through in a situation like that."

Gardner's fifth homer scored Chase Headley and pinch hitter Jacoby Ellsbury and erased a Cubs lead that had lasted since the first inning.

Rondon (0-1) entered the ninth in position for his first save of 2017. Instead, he sustained his first loss.

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Rondon was the only reliever realistically available with closer Wade Davis sidelined after three consecutive appearances.

"We were short in the bullpen this afternoon and that was his game," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "From the side it looked like he had really good stuff. It was an unfortunate choice of where he threw it on that pitch. That was probably the only pitch that Gardner could hit out and we gave it to him."

Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder (1-0) earned the win after working a scoreless eighth. Closer Aroldis Chapman, the former Cubs reliever, faced four batters in a scoreless ninth for his seventh save.

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The Cubs (16-13) never trailed until Gardner's late shot as Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber each slugged a solo home run while starter Kyle Hendricks worked 5 1/3 shutout innings.

Neither Hendricks or Yankees starter Michael Pineda recorded a decision.

Bryant collected his sixth homer of the season in the bottom of the first.

The Cubs prevented a Yankees' tying run in the second when Headley hit into a fielder's choice to Ben Zobrist, who fired to catcher Willson Contreras to tag Aaron Judge trying to score from third.

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The Yankees threatened in the fifth when Chris Carter walked and reached second on Pineda's sacrifice grounder. Hendricks then walked Gardner with two outs but escaped as Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo beat Aaron Hicks to the bag on a grounder for the final out.

Hendricks left with one out after Starlin Castro beat out an infield hit and Judge singled to left. Left-handed reliever Brian Duensing entered and gave up a base hit to Didi Gregorius to load the bases.

Headley then sent a drive to right that was caught by Jason Heyward and quickly fired back with a pinpoint throw to Contreras to tag Castro just before he reached home.

Contreras hit the dirt after taking a shoulder from Castro in a collision but stayed in the game.

Headley said he didn't care for playing conditions that included cool temperatures and winds gusting up to 35 miles per hour from the north.

"It was just a mess, it's really not baseball to be perfectly honest," Headley said. "The game's not anything close to what it's supposed to be played like. You have to play it, but I'm glad we don't play in conditions very often because it just changes everything."

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Schwarber gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead with his fifth homer of the season to open the sixth.

Hendricks allowed six hits, walked two and struck out five and successfully worked out of several tricky situations.

"You've got to take it pitch by pitch," he said. "I wasn't getting some calls early in the game, which got me into some bad counts that I had to work out of. But I felt like I was still staying where I needed to stay."

Pineda gave up two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out six.

NOTES: Yankees C Gary Sanchez rejoined his team on Friday after a three-game rehab stint (strained right biceps) in Triple-A Wilkes Barre. He was promptly inserted into the starting lineup and went 0-for-4. ... New York is 12-3 at home and now 6-6 on the road. ... Former Cubs and current Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman received his 2016 World Series ring in a pre-game ceremony as Chicago manager Joe Maddon made the presentation. He also received greetings from a receiving line of ex-Cubs teammates. ... Yankees 2B Starlin Castro also received a warm welcome from Chicago fans in his first at-bat against his former team. Castro saluted his former teammates in turn as he reached the batter's box. ... New York sends LHP Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.15 ERA) against Chicago LHP Brett Anderson (2-1, 6.23 ERA) in Saturday night's middle game of the series. ... The Cubs named INF Jaime Candelario and RHP Dylan Cease as minor league player and pitcher of the month on Friday. Candelario hit .306 at Triple-A Iowa while Cease posted a 1.90 ERA in five starts at Single-A South Bend.

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